Kingdom Come

Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ graphic novel Kingdom Come is one of the most profound, beautifully written, masterfully illustrated, and important graphic novels in the DC Comics library. This book leaps forward a hypothetical decade into the continuity, and provides the long DC tradition with closure and meaning. It draws on both established comic book convention, Biblical references, and the mytho-historical nuances of the DC world to build a massive epic that brings a fitting end to one of the most cherished modern heroic franchises.

The story follows a narrator, or point of view character, named Norman McCay. A pastor, McCay experiences all of the events first hand. The Golden Age comic book character Spectre is his guide, allowing him to view pivotal strings of events in a Dickensian “Ghost of Christmas Present” style. His narration is always succinct, and would actually flow well even in a film. Some of his conversations with the Spectre drag on the story, but ultimately serve to drive home the overarching message of the book.

The Bible

One of the more compelling aspects of this book is the constant Biblical references. Though the use of the Book of Revelations in action genre literature can be somewhat hackneyed, the use in this context is neither obtuse nor derivative. To the contrary, the Biblical references here slide in with this story exceedingly well. Accepting that text as a prophecy of these events isn’t a stretch within the context of the narrative. The old world notions of God as a supreme single entity are also challenged in this text, adding a slightly more progressive view of God to the story. God is not a person, whose will is carried out by a subjugated universe, but rather the mystical force behind all things. His will is enacted not in spite of free will, but because of it.

The New Pantheon

We have previously discussed on this site, the concept of the new pantheon. This is the concept dealing with the rise of new cultural heroes fed to the public by means of new media versus the old media of literature or verbal storytelling. This story reinforces that ideal and even discusses it outright. Several references are made to the Greek gods of old having been supplanted by the super heroes of the modern era. Furthermore, this story deals with the pangs of rejection felt by those very heroes– Superman, Wonder Woman, et al., feeling replaced by newer more “extreme” heroes who are willing to take overly aggressive actions against so-called super villains. That is the fundamental difference between Superman and his group, and the ilk of the newer heroes like Magog.

The Hero as God

The DC Comics characters were some of the very first in the modern comic book. Many of them were born decades before the majority of the Marvel Comics actors. Since they have remained popular since their birth, these heroes have sunk into the national consciousness and have become the gods of the genre. Almost every super hero, today, is in the shadow of Superman. Kingdom Come takes that notion a step further. The newer heroes in this book really do exist in his shadow, and because of that, Superman is elevated to god status.

Godhood has always been a reality for Superman. He is virtually indestructible, and has incredible strength and abilities. His selflessness and bravery are uncommon and admirable, but continue to push him from manhood into godhood. Like the other DC characters, Superman is a god, and as such is subject to different failings than what the average man might suffer from. Like the Greek gods, then Superman’s faults don’t bring about his death, just constant frustration. Kingdom Come is excellent at exemplifying this, and the trials he encounters just further enrage him and make things worse. Superman does die in an unrelated comic book, but he dies because of his altruistic heroic nature, not his god allegory.

Conclusion

This story is truly a beautiful piece of closure to a long, productive story arch. While it presents some sacrifices and hardships for the characters, the end is satisfying and hopeful. It sends a message of coexistence, self-determination, and inspiration for human achievement. The DC universe has always focused on its heroes as if they were gods, allowing readers to be awed by them instead of routinely subjected to the same “amazing feats.” This has fostered a unique style in heroic storytelling that is beautifully rendered in this text.

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